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5 major changes coming for Android developers

The Google I/O conference was held last week, and Android app developers saw a lot of new features, plus they got advice directly from Google about how to run their businesses better. Services added to the Google developer console and Google Analytics include connecting devs to translation companies for help localising their apps for different markets, and being able to manage staged rollouts for beta releases of their apps.

Here are the top five changes that Android developers will welcome with open arms.

1. Staged rollouts

One of the hottest new features for Android developers is staged rollouts, or the ability to push unreleased apps to alpha and beta testers. Android developers will also be able to give members of the press early access to their apps through the Google Play store. All early testers will opt in to the early releases and can delete the test apps at any time. Developers will be getting new controls that let them manage their groups of alpha and beta testers using Google Groups and Google Play communities. Developers can manage limited and staged rollouts, stop a rollout, push fixes to beta testers who already have the app installed, and more.

2. Localisation services

As announced during the Google I/O 2013 keynote speech, Android developers will now have integrated services in their Google Play development platform connecting them to professional translation service providers. So, if an app is selling well in, say for example Poland, but the app has never been translated into Polish, doing so could open up a new revenue stream.

Also related to translation and localisation are real-time previews of an app in development as text is added and changed. For example, if a developer codes an app with text in English but is also porting it to Spanish, French, German, and Japanese, she can see how the text will display on all five ports at once. As she edits the text, she can see how it will reflow in each of the different languages, again all on one screen.

3. Revenue charts with better insight

From now on Android developers have more visibility into their revenue. New charts display information such as how much money an app has made historically over time, but also how much it has made on any particular day (which was only possible before via a multi-step process that involved exporting data and importing it elsewhere). Being able to see how much money an app made on a certain day can better tip off developers to events that may have caused an increase or decrease.

A few new changes to referral tracking and usage data will be available in the coming weeks, according to Riccardo Govoni, tech lead for the Google Play developer console. Soon, developers will be able to link Google Analytics and the Google developer console, which "gives a better view of the conversion funnel," he said. "And this integration goes both ways."

4. Detailed information about tablet app usage

New information for developers from the Google developer console and Analytics includes a neat pie chart that shows app usage by screen size and screen density for Android tablets.

From the consumer's end, a new section of the Play Store now shows apps that are optimised for tablets, a feature which was sorely lacking and a huge pain point for developers who built apps specifically for tablets, such as stylus input note-taking apps.

5. Tips for optimising apps

An Optimisation Tips section will now give Android developers more visibility into what might be holding back their app from greatness. If there are any requirements that your app does not meet, the tips section will point them out and explain what to do to fix them, according to Miles Barr, engineering manager for Android Apps on Google Play.

Several more significant changes, including the ability for any developer to reply directly to a user review or comment (which was actually announced at Google I/O last year, but wasn’t universally available until last week), are all aimed at keeping Android developers happy and churning out valuable software for Google's mobile OS.

For more on last week’s Google I/O, check out Google matures at I/O 2013: Looks towards consolidation, not innovation, and Google I/O 2013 in pictures: Google Glass, sensor motes, Android Studio, robot bartenders and more.